It was one of the few Sundays when I was up early. Hubby was away on a business trip and I had plans to meet my close friend from college. We had been trying to work out this meet since the time I had moved to Hyderabad, but due to our busy work schedules and other commitments, it just kept getting postponed. I skipped breakfast because I was invited for lunch and the gastronaut in me wanted to save space in my stomach to hog. When I was ready to leave, it suddenly occurred to me that I had forgotten to buy a gift for my friend’s 5 year old daughter. I decided to buy something nice on the way and made a dart for the door.
I stopped by a toy shop and purchased a board game that would be appropriate for her for few more years. After getting the gift wrapped quickly, I headed for my destination. When I reached, I was greeted with a gleaming smile and warm hug by Asha Aunty. I knew her since our college days and was very comfortable in her presence. After the usual exchange of pleasantries, I cosied up on the sofa when I heard a loud thud in the adjacent room. Asha Aunty chortled and shook her head letting out a sigh, and I understood it was the little one’s mischief. I went inside the room and was amazed at the mess. I had a fleeting thought about what my future holds for me but was distracted by a cute and naughty giggle.
“Hi Anvi, how are you?” I said trying to strike a conversation with the tiny tot.
“Hi, who are you?’ she replied.
“Huh! Smart kids of today,” I thought to myself.
“Didn’t I tell you that Anu Aunty will be here? You forgot? And what is all this? Clean up this mess,” asserted Asha Aunty as she entered the room.
The instruction to clean up the room was selectively ignored and Anvi came out with us, asking me a few questions. Well, let me correct that – asking me a lot of questions! She tucked away my gift for her without opening it, which I thought was rare for a child. I saw some sketch pens and a small chart paper cut out in her hand. Before I could ask her about it, she came and sat down beside me. Her cheeks were flushed with excitement and I deduced that she was up to something.
“Can you please help me, Anu Aunty? I want to complete this card,” she gushed.
“Sure, what card is it and who is it for?” I asked while looking into the material with her.
“It’s a mother’s day card. Help me write something good on it,” she answered enthusiastically.
I was bewildered. Mother’s Day card? Was Anvi not aware about what happened to her mother? Or was she told a fabricated story suitable for her tender age? Maybe she was told this card would reach her mother every year? Or could it be for Asha Aunty instead? I sat there in deep thought.
“Aunty, what happened? Let’s finish it fast,” appealed Anvi.
“Yes, I am sorry. Actually, it slipped out of my mind that today is Mother’s Day. I will call my mom and mom-in-law to wish them once we are done.” I assured her and got into action.
She was already busy drawing a heart on the card with a spark in her eyes and I helped her write a short and sweet Mother’s Day message. Once the card was completed to her satisfaction, she went to show it to Asha Aunty who was in the kitchen. I made my phone calls in the meanwhile and joined the lovely ladies of the house post that. The doorbell rang and assuming Akash must have come back from the market, I offered to open the door. We almost shrieked in exhilaration as we had not seen each other for yonks. After Akash shared a moment with Anvi, we chatted non-stop about the good old college days and discussed the whereabouts of our common friends. He congratulated me on my recent marriage and expressed his interest in meeting my husband. We got so engrossed in our tittle-tattle that Asha Aunty had to literally drag us to the dining table for lunch. Anvi was seated in Akash’s lap when his plate was served. On his plate was the same card which we had prepared and I was completely taken aback. So the mother’s day card was for Akash, and not his late wife! He gave a knowing smile as if he knew this was coming. But he switched expressions pretty fast and acted surprised, probably to make Anvi happy.
“Happy Mother’s Day, papa,” she chirped hugging him tight.
“Thaaaaaaaank you. It’s the best card ever,” he responded kissing her forehead.
After she gave him some more details about how and when she made the card, she was ushered in to her room by Asha Aunty for her afternoon nap. Aunty asked us to enjoy our meal in the meantime.
“Did you know she was making that card? You didn’t seem surprised.” I inquired.
“Oh! She actually makes it every year since she was 3. So, I am elated but not surprised,” he clarified and smiled.
Akash could sense my curiosity. He understood that I wanted to know it all. From how his life had been after his wife’s death to how Anvi had been handling it, he answered all the questions in my mind without me asking any of them. Unfortunately, Akash had lost his wife in an accident just a couple of months after she had given birth to Anvi. He was distraught at losing the love of his life, but did not get a chance to even mourn properly. That’s because a tiny little life was now completely his responsibility and he wanted Anvi to love her mother but not go through the pain of missing her. He was not against marrying again but wanted to marry only when he wished to and not when others deemed was the right time. He didn’t believe in remarriage for the sake of kids because he was of the opinion that a child does not necessarily need both the parents and it was society’s way of “forcing” single parents to marry. He was a doting parent and ensured he did everything that is expected of a parent. He became a working dad with help from a hired nanny. Asha Aunty would visit occasionally to help and spend time with Anvi. His organization had a flexible work-from-home policy which he utilized every now and then to be close to Anvi.
Anvi knew that the woman who brought her into this world had become a star but her mom’s absence never pinched her. Her mom was a part of their conversations because Akash never tried to avoid the topic. She loved and respected her mother but did not miss the maternal love. Akash handled the situation beautifully as I could see Anvi being brought up as a content, cheerful girl. He cooked her favorite dishes, spent sleepless nights during her sickness, cleaned her poop, talked to her about the virtues of life, took her out to play, went shopping with her, went for vacations and practically did everything a mother does for her child. He knew that his colleagues worked like a trojan and were getting promoted ahead of him. But he had no qualms about it because his priority was being a good parent. It was hard but he told me how Anvi expressed her love for him in countless ways and that kept him going. She called him her mother, father and friend, and made him feel special everyday. He was aware that as she grows, the influence of the external environment could affect her mindset but he was prepared and determined to tackle that situation as best as he could. I felt so blessed, more than ever before, to have a friend like him and never knew he had so much strength within. That day made me look at motherhood from a renewed perspective and I realized that maternal instincts can be present in anyone.